A sea of white surrounded the court as fans filed into Golden 1 Center.
On each seat was a T-shirt with “PROUD” emblazoned across the front and the Kings’ logo serving as the O.
Some poured out of the team store with new hats, stuffed Slamson dolls and De’Aaron Fox jerseys. Others walked around the concourse wearing the numbers of former Kings players, including Chris Webber, Mitch Richmond and even Jimmer Fredette.
As customers lined up for street tacos, wood-fired pizza, rotisserie and more, plenty of fans swarmed NBC Sports’ broadcast booth near Section 126 with their “Authentic Fan” signs as Webber spoke with team owner Vivek Ranadive before the game.
Finally, a welcome message from center Willie Cauley-Stein: “It never goes unnoticed, y’all are the best fans in the world.”
Game on, Sacramento.
Before tip-off, a few fans discussed their excitement about the season.
Shahnawaz Khan said he’s been a Kings fan “all his life.”
“I’m a pick-and-stick guy,” Khan said. “I remember stealing my brother’s Richmond jersey in middle school and wearing it to class, thinking I was the coolest kid there.”
The 33-year-old Khan, who recently moved back to Sacramento after some time in Portland, Oregon, was attending his first game at Golden 1 Center.
“I’m excited to be here and to watch this young group play together,” Khan said. “The future looks promising with this group.”
He’s hoping that they are more competitive than in recent years and believes the Kings showed good chemistry late last season. He added that he’d like to see De’Aaron Fox take over as the team’s leader.
Also at the arena for the opener is Matt Miller. The 54-year-old from Vacaville was with his two sons watching his second consecutive season opener. He says he’s been a Kings fan “since the beginning at Arco I.”
“I’m eager to watch this team grow,” Miller said. “They’re so young, all I’m asking for is to show us some sustained effort. I’m anxious to see how quickly they can jell together.”
What appears to be a sellout crowd lit up the arena with cellphone flashlights, then the Kings came out and lit up the scoreboard, opening with a 9-0 run against a Utah Jazz team that beat them by 39 in last week’s preseason contest.
The Kings built a 16-point lead in the first quarter and fans got an early treat. Jazz forward Derrick Favors missed two consecutive free throws, giving everyone in the crowd a free Jumbo Jack from Jack in the Box.
Sacramento couldn’t hold onto that early advantage, though. Utah used a strong second quarter and withstood the Kings’ third-quarter onslaught to, for the second time in a week, leave Golden 1 Center with a 123-117 victory.
Some athletes with ties to the area were put on display early.
Webber was introduced to the crowd during the game’s first timeout. He sat courtside with Ranadive and assistant general manager Peja Stojakovic, Webber’s teammate in Sacramento in 1999 and the early 2000s.
Also given some love early in the game was Ian Book, an Oak Ridge High School product who is now the starting quarterback for No. 4 Notre Dame.
Fans were treated to a halftime show by longtime rapper Rob Base, most known for the 1988 song “It Takes Two.” Rapper B.o.B performed outside the arena after the game.
Along with all the freebies handed out, a handful of lucky fans received a much more valuable gift in the fourth quarter: T-shirts with $100 gift cards attached.
The Kings head out on a three game-trip and won’t play at home again for a week, when they host the Memphis Grizzlies on Oct. 24.
Basket — Buddy Hield, a jumper near the top of the key to give the Kings a 2-0 lead.
3-pointer — Nemanja Bjelica put the Kings up 7-0 with his shot from the top of the arc.
Rebound — Willie Cauley-Stein, who corralled Utah’s first shot attempt.
Assist — Cauley-Stein, on Hield’s opening bucket.
Foul — Hield, who was whistled on a Derrick Favors shot attempt.